Even though many people’s earnings already decreased during the pandemic, Shutterstock just announced an update to contributor earnings levels effective June 1 2020. Obviously a company would not restructure earnings levels that it would earn less money so the question is only - how they will earn more. In this blogpost we run some simulation of contributor earnings per month and try to figure out loss in earnings for contributors.

It is hard to calculate exact new earnings in US dollars, but it is relatively easy to estimate your loss in percents based on a number of monthly downloads that you have. So just check how many downloads you have in Shutterstock Contributor Portal and check the charts below.

## Old earnings breakdown

*This is how Shutterstock earnings looked before the change*

What can we get from this breakdown is that video earnings are flat rate `30%`

and maximum image earnings are also about `30%`

, even that for subscriptions you get a flat tiered price.

## New earnings breakdown

*This is how it looks after the change*

On itself probably it wouldn’t be so bad, but **Shutterstock will reset your level every January 1st**. That means that during the first months of every year you will earn less.

If you put those levels on a chart, you will get something like this:

*This is how new earnings breakdown looks visually*

You can see that video levels grow faster when they are smaller, but image earnings reach 35% faster than videos.

## Effective earnings percentage per year

What can be interesting is to calculate what is your effective earnings percentage per year. To do that we simulated contributor earnings per month and put the resulting level on the chart.

### Photo

Chart for photos:

*Averaged effective contributor image commission per calendar year*

That means if you have on average `100`

monthly sales for all 12 months, through the year you will earn effective `25%`

commission per download on average. If you have `200`

monthly sales, you will get around `27%`

per download and so on. This is just another way of looking at the percentage breakdown.

### Video

The same chart for videos:

*Averaged effective contributor video commission per calendar year*

Same conclusion as per breakdown: effective video commission grows faster in the beginning but stays flat for longer later.

## Earnings progress through the year

Let’s see how fast your earnings level grows given your monthly downloads number.

### Photo

*This is how your level changes through the year based on monthly downloads*

If you have `50`

monthly downloads on average, it will take you a whole year to get to `30%`

commission. On the contrary, if you have `300`

monthly sales, you will reach `30%`

already in March.

### Video

*This is how your level changes through the year based on monthly downloads*

For video the story is a bit different as you will reach `30%`

(current video flat rate) already in February given that you have `100`

monthly downloads.

## Earnings loss

### Video

While earnings progress through the year is only for illustration, but it can show us the loss you will take. For that we need to turn the chart bottom-up. Since we know current video earnings level (flat rate `30%`

), we can calculate how much money you will loose comparatively to that based on number of your monthly downloads.

*Earnings loss on video through the year*

So if you have `50`

monthly video downloads on average, previously you would earn `30%`

royalty and now you will earn only `20%`

. That means that during the first month you loose around `35%`

of your previous earnings. During the next three month - you will loose around `16%`

.

Based on this data we can calculate how much money you will loose during the whole year. For `50`

monthly downloads if you lost `35%`

during the first month and `16%`

during the next three months, your *total* loss for the year is around `7%`

of earnings (you need add losses up and divide by `12`

).

*Total video earnings loss for the whole year*

Which means that if you have `50`

monthly video sales, during the whole year you will earn `7%`

less money than with old Shutterstock earnings breakdown. However, if you have `400`

video sales per month and more, there will be no difference for you.

### Photo

It is much more complex to calculate earnings loss for photos because Shutterstock does not publish how much do they pay contributors in percents. However, given the old earnings table, you can see that maximum earnings per image was `30%`

for Custom/Enhanced and we can take that as a baseline.

So now let’s calculate potential earning loss **if you earned 30% royalty for image downloads**.

*Earnings loss on photos through the year*

This shows us that in the beginning you will loose as much as `50%`

of your earnings in case you have `100`

and less downloads per month. Even if you have `400`

downloads per month, you will loose around `17%`

during the first month.

Now let’s see how much you may loose for the whole year **if you earned 30% royalty for images**.

*Total image earnings loss for the whole year*

What this chart can tell you is that you need to get `550`

downloads per month to keep current level of earnings on Shutterstock. If you have `200`

downloads per month, your earnings will decrease around `4%`

and if you have only `50`

per month, you will start receiving `50%`

less money.

## Conclusion

Hopefully this analytics gives you some insights into how your earnings will change with the new rules. If you are interested in verifying the charts provided in this blogpost, you can get Jupyter notebook here and run your own calculations.

Currently Shutterstock Forum is flooded with people’s anger and hatred. It is clear that Shutterstock anticipated such reaction and they calculated that even given contributor churn, they still will win in this situation financially. Some contributors started collecting signatures in a petition, but we’re not sure it will change anything.